Sunday, March 15, 2015

Integrity USA Reduces Workforce

Integrity USA today announced that it will reduce its workforce as part of a plan to align the organization's resources with its missions and goals. This action will be noted by the departure of Integrity’s full-time employees, Executive Director Vivian Taylor and Development Director Sam Peterson.

"I would like to sincerely thank all of our departing employees and recognize their important and valued contributions to Integrity," said Matt Haines, President of the Board of Directors for Integrity. "While this decision by the Board of Directors was extremely difficult, aligning and managing our limited resources is a critically important priority in our efforts to remain faithful stewards of Integrity."

Several challenges face Integrity in the next few months. Despite some sentiments in the Episcopal Church that the battle over marriage equality is done, Integrity recognizes that much of its work remains and that the mission remains as important as ever. The Board continues its support of the faithful resolutions proposed by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage, which was created in 2012. The upcoming General Convention in Salt Lake City this June 23-July 3 will require resources for legislative and communication support, as well planning and offering a Church-wide Eucharist.

Moreover, much of the discrimination against LGBT people has shifted. Integrity is committed to encouraging the Episcopal Church to stand up against so called “religious freedom” legislation, discrimination against transgender people, the continuing disproportionate number of LGBT youth who are impoverished or driven to suicide, and the dismaying lack of support offered to LGBT women and people of color.

“We thank Vivian and Sam for their contributions and commitment,” said Haines. “We hope that we can find ways of increasing our resources to meet the needs of the Church. Until that time, we are fully committed to seeing that the efforts and contributions of our members and allies are carefully directed in a faithfully sound and responsible fashion without losing sight of our holy mission.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Unfailing Love of Pauli Murray -- a Saint for Us Now

My introduction to Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray was from a search on the internet for material for Integrity’s Friday Flash, our weekly newsletter. My first thought was: why are we not talking about this Episcopal hero all the time!? Here was an exemplary being, a freedom-fighter, a woman of mixed race and elastic gender who, in the most difficult days of the 20th century became a the first African American to receive her J.S.D. from Yale, was a civil rights activist, and at age 66 became the first African-American woman ordained the Episcopal Church. Of course, some of us were talking about Pauli— both the Union of Black Episcopalians and Episcopal Women’s Caucus are champions of her memory. A vote at the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church named her to Holy Women, Holy Men - an Episcopal saint.

Here is an excerpt from a sermon titled "The Dilemma of the Minority Christian" from Anthony B. Pinn’s collection Pauli Murray: Selected Sermons and Writings

Put in its simplest terms, salvation is feeling safe, living without fear, living with the serenity in confidence that we are the objects of God's unfailing love, and that we will always be safe whatever happens, in life or in death, if we have a complete and childlike trust in God's love and tender mercy.
This is a great leap of faith, which does not come easy, which deserts us continually, and which we achieve only by the greatest pain and effort — every day a trial, every breath a prayer. Salvation does not mean that we will avoid suffering, shame, humiliation, or defeat. It does mean that we are not alone — God's love, which was poured out for us in Jesus Christ, is always  with us, to strengthen and save us in every situation, if we have trust in his love.

“Feeling safe, living without fear…in confidence that we are the objects of God’s unfailing love…” What a radical proposition! Particularly from a woman of mixed race, slippery gender, and a sexuality that could not be shared by any person of ambition, much less a woman of color then.

Now here we are, in 2015, working towards a more earthly safety for LGBTQ people, for whom the intersections that Murray embodied still can mean not just discrimination, but violence and even murder. Yet we find strength in this world of suffering, because we know the truth of Murray’s words, that Jesus Christ is always with us and we are indeed the objects of God's unfailing love!

Integrity Board President Matt Haines, Executive Director Vivian Taylor, and I met with Barbara Lau, the Executive Director of the Pauli Murray Project in Durham, NC, where Murray grew up.

Lau clearly sees her own role as the means by which young leaders can step into their own. When she talks about Pauli Murray, you get a sense that Murray -- or "Pauli" as Lau calls her -- is in the room with you encouraging your relationship and ideas. We all felt Murray’s presence at our meeting, even there in a sandwich shop in downtown Denver. There, we agreed that we would do all we could to share Murray’s grace with our membership and to bring attention to our own multifaceted identities. Pauli Murray can serve as a starting place for community connection.

Over the next months, leading up to General Convention, we’ll talk more about our vision for collaboration with the Pauli Murray Project. We hope you’ll have the same experience of Murray that we have come to have on many occasions. And we pray that our vision encompasses the kind of work Murray herself would have us do, to foster divinity through human connection, by creating enriching society, and by sharing the Holy Spirit through graceful service.


Sam Peterson, Development Director Integrity USA

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Farewell to the Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd (1923-2015)


Malcolm Boyd, 1969
episcopalarchives.org
Integrity USA mourns the loss of the Reverend Canon Malcolm Boyd (1923-2015).  Canon Boyd, author of several spiritual books, shared his interactive relationship with God with millions of people. It could be said that his down to Earth poetic voice enables a generation a way to understand their journey with God.  In fact, his voice has enabled several generations a way to communicate the grace of God. 
Malcolm Boyd was already beloved as a symbol of faithful seeking when he became one of the first Episcopal priests to come out of the closet.  His risk was our gain.  Malcolm Boyd showed LGBTQ Christians that honesty of life within the church can bring blessing and growth.  He never ceased to share his special gifts with us; a true exemplar of Christ.

We mourn especially with his spouse Mark Thompson, his family and especially his diocesan family at this time.  As a Canon and writer-in- residence for the Diocese of Los Angeles, his reassuring presence will surely be missed.  The world has been blessed for 91 years with the talented, loving voice and presence of Canon Boyd.  The Church has been blessed by 60 years of priesthood. 
The title of Malcolm Boyd’s groundbreaking book, “My Book of Prayers—Are you running with me, Jesus?", posed an important rhetorical question.  We have faith that Malcolm Boyd has found out the answer and is running with Jesus even as we mourn.  Rise in Glory, Malcolm! 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Integrity Works with Michigan to Expose "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" Bill Bigotry


The following is from a letter sent to our Michigan congregations. It speaks to the overwhelming tide of similar bills making their way into state legislation. We urge you to prepare a letter-writing campaign, a sermon, or an action if your state is similarly challenged. We can help. Contact our office at info@integrityusa.org. 

Dear Friends,

We recently read about baby Bay, a 6 day old child denied a doctor’s medical treatment—because Bay’s mothers were lesbians. Despite the Hippocratic Oath, and the American Medical Association’s injunction to treat all patients regardless of sexual orientation, baby Bay’s doctor could refuse treatment under something called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA). An epidemic of refusals to treat, serve or do any business with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender based on people’s religion is happening in Michigan and in 21 states around the country. This legislation is a direct attack on our friends, families, loved ones, and children.

The Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act is back, this time in the state senate. In Michigan, there are at present no legal protections for LGBTQ people, while religious freedom is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. We love and respect religious freedom, and we’re grateful for the First Amendment--but true religious freedom accommodates our differences with mutual respect—it does not privilege certain people overs others. RFRA legislation is simply another form of discrimination.

Jesus was clear that the summary of the law was to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself! If you and your ministry would like talking points and a guide to action, to plan writing a letter campaign after service, Integrity offers these resources to you and your congregation. We intend to send an Integrity representative to our congregations in Michigan very soon and lend support to our communities there. If you are able to make a donation towards this work we would be grateful: we are member, not Church, supported.

We look forward to standing together with you, kneeling together with you, and bringing our faith into everything we do!

Blessings,

Vivian

Vivian Taylor, Executive Director

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rev. Carolyn Woodall assumes the Chair of the Stakeholders' Council

At its February 24th meeting, the Integrity USA Board of Directors welcomed The Rev. Carolyn Woodall as Chair of the Stakeholders' Council, filling a vacancy created by the retirement of Christian Paolino this past January. Carolyn was the Vice-Chair and, as stipulated by the bylaws, assumes the position of Chair until the end of the term.

Carolyn Woodall resides in Copperopolis, California with her oldest child, and four cats. An attorney since 1987, she recently retired from her position as a Deputy Public Defender in Sonora, CA. She currently maintains a small criminal defense practice in Sonora. Carolyn also retired from the Naval Reserve in 1997, having attained the rank of Commander.

She was ordained a Deacon on March 10, 2012, and is the first, and so far only, transgender person to be ordained in the Diocese of San Joaquin. She is currently serving at St. James in Sonora, where she runs a ministry providing provisioned backpacks to the homeless. She is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the School for Deacons in Berkeley; and a member of the Board of Directors of Sierra HOPE, which provides assistance to people with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illness.

Carolyn believes that acceptance regarding LGBT issues begins with education, and has given numerous presentations on transgender issues to church groups, government agencies, charitable organizations, and even a local news station. She told her story in Voices of Witness: Out of the Box, produced by Louise Brooks for Integrity USA.

The Board of Directors would like to thank the tireless work of Christian and all his work with Integrity, both at the national level as well as locally. President Matt Haines says, "Christian has served us with true faithfulness and dedication in his role as Stakeholder's Chairperson.  He has been an authentic and prophetic voice of witness to our community and the Church.  We are grateful for his gifts, friendship, and his constant service to us all."

Please join us in congratulating and thanking Carolyn for agreeing to assume this responsibility.  You may reach her at CarolynW@integrityusa.org.



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Oh Lord, Make Me New: Reflections on Creating Change

When I first became employed by Integrity, I made a series of phone calls to our members to situate myself in the work and introduce myself. As a long-time gay rights>LGB>LGBTQIA equality activist (since the 70’s, where I lived in Dupont Circle in D.C. and worked at Lambda Rising) I have witnessed decades of contention over where our work should focus, and I wanted to feel out where folks saw us now. Unsurprisingly, I kept hearing, “what will we do, now that marriage is finished?” and “we’re exhausted; our members have all retired to rest and recover.”

Burnout is a very real phenomenon. Exhaustion is a by-product of having too-few resources and fighting not just singular “bad” politicians, but entire institutions built to bolster this very inequity.  It relies on our exhaustion, and it depends on some of us being very comfortable, too comfortable in fact to always see how others suffer.

This is the downside of so-called marriage equality. We have exhausted ourselves doing laudable, important work—absolutely—but we find ourselves in some ways no closer to equality than we were before the “true blessing.”  Hate crimes are still happening; women still earn less; people of color experience these disparities of violence and economy in ways that cannot fail to shock those of us paying attention.

Thank God we have a relationship with Christ! We need him now more than ever!

During the beginning of this month I traveled to Creating Change in Denver to participate in the Transgender Leadership Exchange under the aegis of the LGBTQ Task Force. I spent a day in a Faith workshop, with other activists, church leaders, rabbis, shaman, druids, and priests. We are nothing if not spiritually eclectic! The focus of the workshop was “how do we care for ourselves so we can care for our community?”  Fatigue was a spectral participant. But we were present enough to critique the rhetoric of “anti-oppression.” I think we all intuitively understood it was the “anti” that was sapping our ranks.

Surrendering to God’s mercy means giving up the fight. What I resist persists. In earth-bound strategies for policy change both in our Church and without it can feel like only some of us “do the work” while others appear complacent. The wounds we've borne and the trauma we've experienced—living as lesser citizens, and under the constant thrum of violence—carries into our work and we feel attacked, beaten up. Often by our own. Surrendering seems counter-intuitive; haven’t we gotten this far by forceful demands to be recognized as equals?

In this regard, fighting for equality in our church has been devastating. It took a lot of human will and energy against a deep-seated culture of “we've always done it this way.” We come to the work already tired, we come to our church to be revitalized but we find no peace there either.  And the work is not done.

At the leadership summit I experienced a lot of hostility towards marriage equality. “It’s not equality when only some of us can afford to do it!” a young white transwoman said. “It’s not equality when Latina transwomen have a one-in-eight chance of being murdered,” snapped another.  I was in a room with twenty, mostly youthful (to me, under 35!) activists. They were bitterly angry and hurt by a movement they saw as working only for white equality, only for rights for the wealthy. They were there to hold our movement accountable, to say “we who are dying no longer accept your taking money and energy from us to do work that is not for us.”

I could hear that. As a white, 54 year old transmasculine person, I can finally relax. I mostly pass nowadays, and it’s extraordinarily liberating to not feel the heat of stares and stings of remarks, not to mention violence. But as a woman, I experienced the abuse, the ridiculous salaries, the generous hostility; I have been violently harassed, assaulted, and raped. As a lesbian, I've been chased by cars, followed by strangers, denied jobs, and even housing. In this I feel a kinship with my trans*sisters. But what about my own exhaustion? I’m weary! Some days I just don’t have anything to give. I’m hurt, I’m angry, I’m sick, and I’m tired. I have fibromyalgia, arthritis, headaches, depression. How can I show up for justice when even in our own community there seems to be none?

This is where my practice must begin. On my knees. I cannot, we cannot, fight oppression without exhausting ourselves. In my earnest desire for freedom, I forget sometimes that I am already free. I am a being without limit, without end, because I am a child of God. I have a relationship with the only One, the only thing with meaning, the only place of real love. If I am to attend to the earthly work I am so compelled by, this work of LGBTQ justice, I must gently remind myself where true power lies. There, there is nothing to fight. I can stand my ground, rally my congregation, lobby my bishop, but when I forget what’s real and what’s meaningful, this work will become very tiring indeed. I begin to resent others who “work less.” I begin to believe that the work depends on me to get done. I forget there is a deeper agenda, an inspirited agenda, working through me and for me. And I forget that you are my ally, that we’re in this together, and I begin to recreate you as my enemy.

So as I learned at Creating Change, if you are tired, rest Sister. Rest Brother. Some of us will carry others now. Our weariness needs attention and our spirits need loving kindness. And still, I cannot mistake the freedom of some as the freedom of all, nor mistake my exhaustion for mine alone. Let us rejoice that we know the truth, and that we are on a mission to carry this truth everywhere: that God loves us all, that we are all equally endowed with grace and love! I am learning, a day at a time, not only to give my hurt and my weariness over to Christ, but to offer yours too. Only then can I be open to hear that there is more work, and that I can participate in ways that stretch but don’t break me, because I have found the source of illimitable strength.

“Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Oh Lord, make me new. Amen.


Sam Peterson is the Development Director at Integrity USA


Friday, February 13, 2015

Reimagine the Episcopal Church, with Marriage Equality

In 1976 the Episcopal Church adopted a resolution promising "full and equal claim" to the LGBT faithful. Nearly 40 years later, we are still working to make that resolution a reality.  This summer at our 78th General Convention we will consider resolutions calling for an end to discrimination against the marriage of same-sex couples in the Episcopal Church. In that process, the Episcopal Church has the chance to proclaim the Good News of God's inclusive love and embody a theology of marriage that transcends the gender of the couple promising to love, honor and cherish each other until death do they part.

We have the opportunity to lift up "fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God" as the values that make a marriage holy. We have the chance to talk about marriage as vocation of holy love, grounded in biblical values of faithfulness and forgiveness. And we have the opportunity to say we are a community of faith focused on supporting all who are called into the vocation of marriage - not discriminating against some who are called into the vocation of marriage.

We believe that the time is now to Reimagine the Episcopal Church -- with Marriage Equality. Join us!

Visit the Facebook page that will contain the latest news and resources supporting the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments: https://www.facebook.com/MarriageEquality4TEC


Rev. Susan Russell
Senior Associate, Communications, All Saints Pasadena
Past President Integrity USA


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Taking a Stand for Marriage Equality in Alabama

Photo by AlabamaNews.Net
Rev. Jeff Y. Byrd was caught in a flurry of media attention when on February 9, in front of the Pike County Courthouse, he stood with a sign in support of the Supreme Court decision. That decision let stand a federal judge ruling that Alabama's ban on marriage equality was unconstitutional.  Rev. Byrd was thrilled about the Supreme Court announcement, but was offended by the actions of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who instructed probate judges to not perform their duties as required.

He stood from 8am until closing. At first he was afraid to go and make a stand. Then, he realized that he feared not going even more, that by not going he would not be living out his calling. So he went as a tax-payer, a citizen, a priest, holding the sign that his daughter created the night before. He could not stay quiet as he heard about judges hiding behind a mask of religion to perpetuate marriage discrimination.

Social media began to share articles about his stand. One article by the AlabamaNews.NET featureded him with his poster. On Facebook, there were photos of Rev. Byrd with other supporters.

The Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast permits blessings of same gender couples. St. Mark's Episcopal Church has been an Integrity Proud Parish Partner (P3) for some time and is a safe space in Troy, Alabama. Rev. Byrd not only ministers to the LGBT who may be coming from anti-LGBT upbringing and faith traditions, but he also ministers the prison community. St. Mark's food pantry runs 24-hours non-stop. It is with this background that Byrd chose to stand for all the people in his diocese.

I chatted with Rev. Byrd on Wednesday and asked him to comment on what is happening in Alabama and on his stand.

Yesterday was a historic day in Alabama, and a historic day in the fight for human rights and dignity for all people. Of the 67 counties here, seven have now allowed same sex couples to have equal access and protections under the law. I celebrate that, but we have a long way to go to make sure all people have the dignity and civil rights they deserve!
I was absolutely astonished by the respect and support shown to me and our small group of protesters yesterday. Church folks that I knew and strangers alike were very kind... for the most part. People would just drive by and wave their approval. Some parked their cars right in front of the Pike County Courthouse just to come over and thank us for our visible but silent witness. Members of my church, St Mark's Episcopal Church in Troy Alabama, brought food and water. Lawyers going in for trials mostly smiled and gave us the thumbs up. During the day several same sex couples tried to apply for assistance from the probate judge's office even though they knew they would be denied... but still they tried! 
The media attention we received was overwhelming. I was interviewed by The New York Times, National Public Radio : All Things Considered, a Montgomery News Channel for a video piece, a Montgomery paper, Troy Public Radio, AL.COM, and the Troy Messenger who ran an article today. Truly overwhelming! During the day many of you sent messages of support that made a huge difference. Knowing that so many folks were praying for us, or simply sharing messages of solidarity meant the world to me...bless you all! 
In closing I'd like to share some words with you from my good friend Rev. Jim Flowers: "Our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have for far too long been shamed as the stranger among us. By loving them and celebrating their lives among us, we move as the human community one step closer towards the wholeness God intends for the world. As a priest of the church, I rejoice in this courageous step in righting a grievous wrong. We are all made in God's image (all of us). It is time we started acting like it!"
Please do continue to keep the folks in Alabama who are still waiting for equal civil rights, dignity, and justice to be their lived experience. Please pray that the number of allies for the LGBTQQ community will continue to grow as we continue to press for fair and equal treatment for all people! Blessings, Peace, and Love
Rev. Byrd asks for your prayers as Alabama resolves the issues of giving its citizens equal access to marriage.



Mel Soriano, Director of Communications, Integrity USA




Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Time is Now

This week’s action by the U.S. Supreme Court rejecting Alabama’s same-sex marriage stay request is widely understood as a hint of things to come. Jurisprudence throughout the nation has overturned marriage inequality. Interestingly, the two dissenting justices cited the protection of the status quo as the reason they would have maintained the stay. Yet, the highest court of the land rejected such weak reasoning. Protecting the status quo at the cost of perpetuating injustice is anathema to Americans; it is anathema to Christ as well.

Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Our savior summarized the law as loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. God’s law is love. This movement toward civil marriage equality suggests a nation ready to recognize love as it really is. As a nation, we are on the way to fulfilling the law for all people seeking marriage in this land. And, our church is on that same journey.

This summer we will take a significant step on that road. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church will have before it a similar question as it considers marriage equality in a church where at least 75% of Episcopalians now live in states with legal marriage equality.

Will they be able to marry in their own churches? Without prophetic action in the church, the status quo suggests no. If the House of Bishops and House of Deputies vote to change church law, we can lead the Supreme Court and the faithful in recognizing that marriage is between two people, regardless of gender.

Please read the Taskforce on the Study of Marriage’s Report and the recommendations it offers. This report is a continuation of decades of study, reflection and faithful practice. Please reach out and encourage your bishop and deputies to do the same. They need to know that our marriages are real and holy. Together we can make the case to the leaders of our church – as it is being made to the leaders of our nation – that the time is now for marriage equality. The time is now for it is time for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church to change its laws and amend our canons. The time is now to re-imagine the Episcopal Church -- with Marriage Equality -- to help faithful gay and lesbian Christians to fulfill God’s call of love lived out in their own relationships.

Matt Haines, President of Integrity USA.


Friday, January 16, 2015

LGBT in the wide Christian Church - Visiting the Gay Christian Network Conference

Integrity Board members Matt Haines and Mel Soriano attended the Gay Christian Network conference in Portland last weekend. Though the conference in years past has been focused on evangelicals, its attendees now come from many different Christian faith traditions and from across the LGBT+friends rainbow. A couple speakers were Episcopalians and a group of Episcopalians had lunch with Matt and Mel on one day of the gathering.

It was a deeply spiritual and touching conference, with much personal sharing and many ideas for expanding the hearts and minds of the Church. Mel posted his reflections about this sprawling big tent of 1500 people on his blog "Let All Who Are Thirsty Come". 

I attended the Gay Christian Network's (GCN) 11th conference in Portland, Oregon at the end of last week. There were 1300 registered attendees, perhaps 1500 people attending in total, from 46 states and 11 countries. I came to learn about their communication strategies, their pastoral work, their education efforts, and to network in my role as Director of Communications and Board member of IntegrityUSA. Matt Haines, President of the Board of Directors for IntegrityUSA, attended with me. I also attended with my heart and mind opened by the Episcopal Church and my heavy participation at All Saints Pasadena.
The conference began under Justin Lee to meet the needs of the evangelical community. When I say evangelical in this context, I am using the popular meaning. I consider myself a progressive evangelical which, to the media, would seem an oxymoron at best, a cognitively dissonant impossibility at worst. But that's what I consider myself to be, as many who attend All Saints Pasadena probably do as well.

To read the full article, visit http://www.letallwhoarethirstycome.com/2015/01/big-fat-greek-wedding-gay-christian.html